President Barack Obama is supposed to lead the country, but barely participated in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations except to berate Republicans in the media. As Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid is meant to move legislation through the upper chamber, but gave up and was sidelined by the Vice President. House Speaker John Boehner is meant to lead his caucus, but they rejected his proposals, and he barely held onto his job.
Welcome to post-”fiscal cliff” Washington, a leaderless chasm in which no one is bold enough to offer an agenda, nor confident enough to compromise. Even the Tea Party refuses to step up: it was ironic that Michele Bachmann cast the 218th vote that gave Boehner the bare majority he needed to retain the Speaker’s gavel. This is an age without a Reagan, without a Thatcher–without even a Ted Kennedy, on the other side.
President Obama marked the conclusion of the “fiscal cliff” deal by promising he would not negotiate with Congress on the debt ceiling. Likewise, Speaker Boehner promised he would no longer negotiate directly with the President. These are absurd promises that mock the spirit of the Constitution’s separation of powers, bold statements that are meant to convey strength but in reality betray the weaknesses of both party’s leaders.